Continuing Tales


A Tamora Pierce Story
by Sivvus

Part 27 of 69

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Daine felt a hand on her shoulder and opened her eyes, seeing that the light streaming through the gap in the heavy curtains was dim.

We must have slept through the whole day, she thought, and looked up at the person who had woken her.

"Lady Alanna? Did you want to speak to Numair?" she whispered. The woman shook her head, cropped hair dancing around her cheeks, and crooked a finger towards the door. Daine carefully slipped out of bed, moving slowly so as not to wake Numair. Both of them had slept badly, and even with the whole day gone she still felt a headache behind her eyes from the nightmares. He was peaceful now, and she thought it better to let him sleep.

Alanna was waiting impatiently in the corridor, but her eyes were unusually uncertain. "Daine," she said carefully, when the girl shut the door behind her, "I wanted to... to apologise to you."

Daine looked at her in surprise, and found herself laughing. She had no illusions that the woman liked her. "Did Hazelle tell you to?"

"She suggested it," Alanna retorted, and then softened. "But she was right. I behaved badly. So there it is: I'm sorry."

"Thank you," Daine felt suddenly awkward, and babbled, "And thank you for hunting them down. Even if you didn't think it went well, I mean. They can't hurt anyone else."

"She told me what you did. How you helped her." Alanna leaned against the wall, and the light made her look wan and tired. Daine wondered if the knight had slept at all. "The girl you helped. I believe she's making you a cake, or some such. All the servants are gossiping so much today the stories are getting mixed up."

She cut her eyes sideways, her expression speculative. "And you helped Numair, as well. I didn't believe him, you know. I thought he was twisting the truth. You know, protecting you. He's like that. Always has been. I used to tease him about it. He's probably the most powerful mage in the world, but his idea of a battle always seemed to involve some beautiful woman and an unchivalrous cur."

Daine bit back a giggle. "I suppose it was easy for him to scare them off, though, being so strong."

"You'd think so, but if I remember rightly he used to just talk at them until they got confused and wandered off." Alanna grinned and stuck her hands into her belt. "If I could make his vocabulary into a weapon I swear no-one would ever declare war on Tortall again. But Jon probably wouldn't let me use it. He'd think it was unnecessary cruelty, or something."

"Jon?" Daine was pleased they were talking so easily, but found she was getting confused. "I thought your husband was called George?"

Alanna laughed out loud then, covering the loud noise with her hand and looking guiltily at the door. "Jon's the king, Daine. King Jonathan."

"Oh!" The girl flushed and covered her mouth. "I'm sorry! The way you were talking I thought..."

"Don't worry, I don't mind. He may be his royal high-and-mightiness, but he's also a spoilsport." Alanna jerked her head sideways. "Come on, let's go and find that cake. I'm starving!"

"Isn't it my cake?" Daine teased her, falling into step. She stepped on the edge of her dress and cursed, stopping short. "I'm sorry, Alanna, I'll have to get changed first. This thing is in shreds."

Alanna blinked at her with the look of a person who genuinely didn't notice clothes past how warm they were. "I'll come with you." She said, "We can talk. You said you wanted to, right?"

Daine wondered how much Hazelle had paid for the dress as she slipped the sleeves from her shoulders and heard it crumple to the floor. It had been breathtaking when she'd first seen it, a shocking red fabric which seemed to grow darker in candlelight, shading to a soft, rich tone. It had nearly tripped her several times in the garden when she was chasing the assassin, but it wasn't until she took it off that she realised how horribly ruined it really was. Any cloth that wasn't torn was stained by snow and even blood, and the laces in the corset were all cut into ribbons, even where Bennette hadn't severed them. She sighed and lay it gently on the bed, wondering if it looked worse than it was and they could fix it. Somehow, she doubted it.

"I never had anything so beautiful." She said softly, not knowing if Alanna could hear her from where she was building up the fire. "Hazelle shouldn't buy me all these dresses. She must spend a fortune, and I think I'm too good at spoiling them."

"Thayet – Queen Thayet, that is – once did the same thing." Alanna picked up the dress, gave it a cursory glance, and then threw it into the flames. "I wouldn't even use that to clean my armour. She had a dress made for a banquet, and then went riding out with the Riders. By the time she got back it was in shreds. Do you have any sensible clothes?"

Daine blinked at the change of subject. "No? I think Hazelle wanted to make me into a lady."

"Well, you're not a lady." The knight said curtly. "And if you're going to be fighting, you shouldn't be wearing this ridiculous getup."

She left abruptly and returned after a few minutes, carrying an armful of clothes. "Here," her voice was brusque. "You're taller than me, but smaller. They should fit."

Daine took the clothes cautiously, eyes wide. "Are you sure?"

"Of course not. I'm wracking myself with despair over the thought of losing a few old tunics." Alanna rolled her eyes and went back to the fire. "It's so cold in this bloody country! Why do people live here?"

Daine pulled the clothes on, getting used to Alanna's rough form of kindness. "Thank you." She whispered, and expected the curt nod before Alanna even made the gesture. Typing the belt of the tunic, she said quietly, "It's started, hasn't it? The war?"

"Not quite." Alanna tapped a finger against her chin thoughtfully and added yet another log to the fire. "It's like a game of chess. They made their first move, and now we have to decide what to do next. They'll be planning what to do, but they won't do anything until we respond."

"What if we don't do anything?" Daine asked. Alanna made a snorting laugh.

"That's still a response. Just a stupid one."

"No, I mean... what if we look like we're not doing anything? Keep everything the same. The parties, the card games, the friendly smiles. Even send Orsille invitations. It will confuse them. They won't know what we're thinking, only that we're not afraid of them."

Alanna was unusually silent for a moment, and then she grinned wolfishly. "Look the enemy in the eye, you mean?"

"I suppose." The girl sat on the edge of the bed. "Well, they don't know how much we know. I heard them saying so. And they don't know your soldiers are over the pass. They think we're completely cut off. So we can say we had... thieves, or something. A normal break in. So we make the guards more visible, and ask if anyone else has noticed strange things happening around their homes. In the town, or even in the keeps. Because we want our neighbours to be kept safe, right? We can ask as many questions as we like, right in front of them, and we'll know which ones are lying to us."

"It's risky." Alanna's eyes gleamed, and she clapped the girl on the back. "Let's do it!"

Daine grinned back, forcing back the feeling of fear that came from knowing she'd have to talk to them again. A thought occurred to her, and she twisted her hands in her lap. "You'll have to tell Numair," she said, "He'll be angry at me."

Alanna sighed, "Like I said, he's all about the chivalry." She brightened. "Did he tell you that he finally got the leader's name out of Karenna? We know who the officials answer to, now. Perhaps now we can finally get a sensible conversation out of the man over dinner, now he won't have to pander to that silly fool."

"Pander?" Daine blinked at her. "But... aren't they getting married?"

"Married!" Alanna laughed, and didn't seem to notice that the girl wasn't joking. "Perhaps she thought so, but honestly! What an idiot. The promise of a ring around her finger and suddenly she's spilling all her secrets? Numair's clever to be so convincing, but honestly, I look at court women and despair."

Daine felt her head spinning. "But, I thought..."

Alanna's smile faded and she looked uncertain. "You wanted them to get married?" She asked, her expression bemused. Daine went to nod her head, and found she couldn't. She shrugged.

"I... wanted him to be happy. That's all."

"Well, first off, it wouldn't have made him happy. It would have meant I'd kill him for being such an idiot, so he'd've been dead. But no, it was a trap Hazelle thought up. We had to know who was running this show. We knew Karenna's father... that Orsille... was in charge here, but until yesterday we had no proof that he wasn't just planning a coup. It goes all the way to the top, you know... although of course the king will deny it." She frowned. "You really didn't know? They didn't tell you?"

Daine was silent, and Alanna scowled for a moment. "Well, I'd knock their heads together if I were you. Mithros' spear, Daine! I can understand Hazelle fooling you, but Numair? How on earth can you share a bed with the man and still think he's in love with someone else?"

"Why wouldn't he tell me?" She asked in a whisper, and twisted her hands in her lap. "Doesn't he trust me?"

"You'll have to ask him that." Alanna shrugged and pulled the girl to her feet. "No sense fretting over it, though. Sometimes clever people do very stupid things. And you know now, right?"

"Yes," Daine pretended her headache hadn't gotten worse, and made herself smile. "I know now."


They may have decided to keep having the parties, but that evening the house was empty. Hazelle gave the servants the evening off, knowing they were a seething hornet's nest of gossip and outrage, and told Alanna, Numair and Daine that she was getting an early night. Alanna (who, it turned out, had prowled the house and garden like a vengeful demon until dawn) echoed their host's words, and fell into her bed so dramatically they could hear the thud from the sitting room.

Daine smiled at the sound. She'd spent most of the afternoon talking with Alanna, letting the short woman eat most of the lopsided cake that the maid had tearfully given her, and learning that most of the woman's harshness was on the surface. By the time Numair joined them she had heard so many stories about Alanna's family, and her life, that she felt like she'd known her for years. She asked Alanna to explain why the king was such a spoilsport, and was still laughing at the last anecdote when the knight excused herself to go to sleep.

"Does it make you miss home?" She asked Numair, seeing that he stopped laughing quite quickly. He shrugged.

"A little. But it's a good kind of homesickness, because I know I'll be seeing them all again soon."

"It must be nice." Daine smiled. "Having a place to go back to, and people that remember you."

He nodded, and then looked up. Alanna had dived for the fireplace the moment they'd come into the room, so they'd ended up making a circle of cushions and lounging around the heat, sleepily chatting and laughing at the knight's stories when they grew more ridiculous. Daine was lying on her stomach with her chin cupped in her hands, watching the flames with peaceful happiness. The words might have sounded barbed coming from someone else, but the girl made them sound simple, genuinely pleased for someone else's happiness.

"What were your family like?" He asked, curious. She smiled sideways at him, and drew in the ashes with one finger.

"Ma was a healer. A midwife. We had a cottage in the mountains with my grandda, in Snowsdale. She was fair pretty- they called her a local beauty. She had hair like gold, and when she smiled you knew you'd done something good! She used to smile a lot."

She drew a stick figure in the ashes and then blew on it, making it disappear. "And I had a pony called Cloud. We grew up together. She made me cry when I was little because she was so grumpy sometimes. But she was my best friend. We used to look after the animals and go around the farms, you know. I suppose they thought it was odd, a little girl riding miles to nurse a sick duck! But I had Cloud with me, and the wolves... the wolves never attacked us. So we kept doing it, and it was a good life. Grandda taught me to shoot. He made me a bow and some puppets – he was good with his hands, a proper craftsman. And there wasn't anyone else. I don't know who my da was, and I don't have any brothers or sisters."

"Do you remember how to shoot a bow?" He asked, "It might be useful."

"Maybe. It'd make my arms ache now, for sure! I'll need to practice." Daine looked intrigued by the thought. "Do you think Hazelle would let me?"

Numair laughed, "Even if she doesn't approve, it doesn't matter. You're your own person. If you want to do something then do it! I'm sure you can be stubborn enough to convince her."

"You can't tease me for that," Daine grinned and brushed a handful of ash at him. "Who do you think taught me to argue? It wasn't Hazelle, that's for sure! She thinks it's unladylike."

"It is?" He looked intrigued. "Well, she's obviously never spoken to another lady in her life."

"Do you want to know what happened to them?" Daine asked, and then waved her ash-stained hand vaguely in the air. "My family, I mean."

"I know they're dead," he hesitated, "And you don't have to..."

"I know. I don't have to tell you anything I don't want to, right?" She smiled. "You keep telling me that. It's alright, I want you to know, if you want to hear it. You asked me weeks ago why I was locked up, and I refused to tell you, remember?"

"Well, you spat at me." He said, and smiled to take the sting of his words away. "I figured it wasn't a good question to ask again. You didn't seem over-keen to answer it."

She blushed and looked at the fire. "I didn't trust you. I thought you were an idiot. I trust you now."

"But you still think I'm an idiot?" He laughed and ducked when she threw another handful of ash at him.

"That's not what I meant, and you know it!" She sobered then, and looked up from the fire into his eyes. "But if I tell you, I have a condition."

"A condition? I'll keep it secret, if that's..."

"No, it's not that. It's like a trade." She drew a deep breath. "If I tell you this, you have to tell me the truth about Karenna."

He reddened instantly, and started to say something, and she held up a hand. "No, not the spy story. I already know that Hazelle made you do it. Alanna told me. But I want you to tell me. I want you to tell me what happened between you and her, and how much of it was... was real. Because... I don't understand. I don't know why you didn't tell me. It's actually driving me mad- all the wondering! And it hurts, because all I can think of is that you didn't trust me enough to let me know the truth. Is that true?"

"No, of course not." He couldn't meet her eyes, but the word made her happier than she could remember being in a long time. She smiled gently and held out her hand, not caring that it was dusted with ash.

"Do we have a deal, then?"

"Deal." He took her hand and didn't let go for a moment. "When did you find out?"

"This afternoon." She shrugged off the question, and started speaking. "Well, this is what happened. There were bandits..."

Numair listened in silence, not asking any questions even when she explained how she had decided to run with the wolf pack, and how the villagers had started to hunt her down when she couldn't force herself to be human again. She described how Cloud had bullied her into walking on her hind legs, and was almost teaching her to speak again, when the villagers ambushed the wolf pack and they were caught. Her voice stayed detached, almost emotionless, when she spoke about how they had even slaughtered the pups, and how they had beaten her and brought her through the streets of the city in a cage, but emotion broke through when she remembered how they had slaughtered Cloud in front of her eyes.

"They were going to hang me," she said, "But they wanted to... to jeer, first. They were throwing things, and laughing, but all I could think about was how to save Cloud. She screamed when they made the first blow, and I heard it," she touched her temple, not knowing she'd left a fingerprint of ash. "I heard it in my mind, like a flare of that copper light, when she died. And something in me just snapped. I'd been a wolf, but that was the first time that the wolf in my head completely took over.

Before that I could remember how to be human. The wolf in my mind wasn't like a normal wolf. They're clever, and they sing to each other in howls, and they're friendly, and loving. The wolf in my mind just wanted to kill, and maim, and be the kind of savage that the townsfolk expected me to be. I tore through those people like they were made of cobwebs, and I kept going until someone cast a spell on me, and then I couldn't move. I looked around, and saw them. When the wolf went away... when I could think again... I could remember what I saw. Not just the men and women who tried to kill me, but children, old people, even... I remember a baby, and there was blood on its blanket, and it was still. Maybe I killed its mother, maybe I killed it, I never found out. There were so many of them. So many I couldn't count them, but I had killed every one of them. My hands were covered in blood, and I couldn't tell one drop from another."

"Was it the officials who cast the spell?" He asked gently, stopping her meandering words. She blinked and bit her lip.

"I guess so. I never thought about it. Someone hit me not long after, and I woke up in the prison, in a tiny cell. There were claw marks on the door, even in the stone, so I must have tried to get out! But I can't remember anything after they hit me."

He was silent, then said, "I can't help thinking your wolf and my hawk are the same thing. Do you think that's why our gifts tied themselves into knots together?"

She gaped at him. "Aren't you going to... I don't know, be angry with me?"

"It'd be rather hypocritical of me, don't you think?" He looked at her expression, and smiled humourlessly. "I mean, our stories are so similar that we're both open to the same accusations. Killing innocents, decimating towns, going insane..." he sighed and picked up the poker to nudge a spitting log closer to the back of the blaze. "I don't think either of us can take the moral high ground, here."

She rolled onto her back, resting her head on her arm. "So, two murderers are talking next to Hazelle's fire," she said, her voice sardonic, "And she's worried about the assassins coming from outside?"

"I hurt your arm, didn't I?" He said suddenly. She craned her neck back to look at him, unable to read his expression upside down. He put the poker down carefully. "In the mountains. I hurt your arm. I tore claws into your skin. There was blood on my hands."

"No," she said, confused, "That was the hawk."

"Oh, I see." He shrugged. "So, everything I do wrong is the hawk's fault, and everything you do wrong is your own fault?" She was silent, and he reached down to stroke a strand of hair from her forehead, his fingers gentle. "Daine, we've been fighting the hawk and the wolf as long as we've known each other. And I do mean fighting them, not reasoning with them or trying to understand them. They're not a part of us, they're our enemies. And they did terrible, horrible things. Things that will haunt us for the rest of our lives. But it was them. You said so yourself: you can't remember being the wolf, past those first few minutes. I've seen you fight against it. If you can convince me that I can overcome the hawk, then why won't you believe the same thing about yourself?"

She looked up at him, eyes shining in the firelight, and then shut her eyes for a moment. Not opening them, a tear slowly making its way down on cheek, she said, "Tell me about Karenna."

His hand paused for a moment, and then he hesitantly wiped the tear away, and his voice was soft. "I ... I just didn't want you to know."

Her eyes opened. "That's it?" She smiled crookedly, and sat up. "Yes, of course it is."

"Of course?" He echoed, and his eyes narrowed. "Daine, what do you mean? I don't understand."

"It's the same answer you have for everything. Everything that's important. Because you're too... you're too noble to tell me the truth." She laughed shortly, "And I don't know why I expected anything else. You must think I'm stupid."

"Of course not!" He reached out to touch her cheek, looking stricken. "No, Daine, that's not it at all. It's just that sometimes the answer really is that simple."

"Liar." She caught his hand and dropped it just as quickly. "I can tell you the answer. It's not even that painful. Because we both know it's true, don't we? You just won't admit it. I can tell you the words you won't say, and then we can get on with our lives without this nonsense making us fight and lie to each other and... give each other stupid one-sentence answers."

"Don't," he whispered, "You don't need to..."

"You're not listening!" Her voice was suddenly hurt, and he flinched and looked straight at her. "You never listen! You don't hear me. And tonight Iam me, Numair. I'm me, not the wolf, not Annette, and I'm here, and I might be... stupid, or ignorant, but you're the one who has a problem. You can't hear a word I'm saying."

"I'm listening." He said softly, and this time he didn't look away. "But, Daine, you don't want to tell me anything. I mean it. You're tired and you were hurt and upset... and you don't know what you're saying."

"Yes." She said, and there was an odd clarity in her sudden stillness. "I do. Because I'm Daine tonight, not Annette, and I don't know when that will happen again, or if I'll get another chance before you... you go home... No. I'm here, so I have to tell you..."

"Daine, stop it." He caught her hands, holding them still. She laughed irritably and shook him off, curls flying as she shook her head.

"What are you so scared of? I'm only going to tell you what you want to hear... what you want. Everyone wants to hear what they want. Even people who can't listen."

"What do I want, then?" He asked flatly, a strange resignation mixed with wariness written on his face. She smiled sadly and traced a line down his cheek, as if she were painting a tear.

"You need to know that I understand. That's all. I know you don't want me. I know why you don't want me. And I understand it, really I do. I'm not angry about it, I promise. It's so sweet of you not to tell me, but it's been hanging over us, and you don't have to be scared of it. I... I know why you can't love me."

He stared at her for a long minute, almost paralysed, his lips shaping a question that he couldn't quite voice. After a few moments he looked away and his voice was strange when he asked, carefully: "And why is that?"

She looked at their hands, at her bitten nails, and the neat tailoring on the cuffs of his sleeves. "This is your life, not mine."

She suddenly felt too sober, as if she had spent all of her energy in her declaration, and had left none for these difficult words. "You're a part of all this. The... dancing and the food and the conversation and the nobles who know your name. You're one of them. It's where you belong. But when I met you I thought you were... more like me. I made a mistake. I didn't know that you had this world to come back to. It's a beautiful world," she said, almost wonderingly, "and you belong in it. You deserve it. You're so lucky to be able to come home to it, and I'm so happy for you. But I could never... I wouldn't..."

"Why not?" Numair looked around then, his eyes shining in the firelight for a brief moment before he looked away again.

"I'm spoiled." She said simply, and then laughed, not noticing his unbidden reaction. "Not that I was much to start with! Hazelle can dress me up in silks and teach me to talk proper... speak well, I suppose. But she can never change what's under all that. What I did, and what was done to me... it can't be taken back, and it will follow me wherever I go. That's why I told you what I did. You saw last night what they did to me, but I needed you to understand that... it wasn't all them. You deserve better than me, and I... I'll be fair glad for you when you go home."

"Is that really what you believe I think? About you?" He cut across. The words became almost incomprehensible as he buried his head in his hands. Daine nodded automatically, and it wasn't until he looked up that she realised he hadn't seen her answer. His eyes were wet with tears, and tiny crescents were embossed in the palms of his hands where he'd dug his nails into the skin.

"Are you crying?" She asked, and then felt her own eyes well up. "Oh please don't cry. I didn't mean to hurt you. I would never...!"

"No." He cut her off, wiping away the tears in frustrated haste. "I mean, yes, of course I... oh, for Shakith's sake." He ran a hand through his hair until it was a tangled crows-nest. "So that's why you think I turned you down? In the...the mountains? Because I think you're spoiled?"

"Of course! Wasn't it?" Daine said, watching him with perplexed eyes. He laughed shortly, a harsh sound that was more like the hawk's voice than his own, and he picked up the poker to build up the dying fire. His fingers wrapped around the iron bar so tightly that they shone white in the orange light.

"I thought it would wear off," he said quietly, almost to himself. The fire crackled and a log hissed, and he nudged the smouldering charcoal closer to the heart of the fire with a careless gesture. "When you were safe, and had other people around you who cared for you, I thought it would fade. I thought I needed to keep you close because I wanted to defend you. We were protected from the moment we arrived in this house, but I only felt like we were safe when you came to me that night. I held you in my arms, and I could breathe again."

"It was a habit, I told myself. I expected every morning to wake up with nothing in my head except the ends of nightmares. But it never happened. Every morning I woke up with you in my heart, before I even remembered that I was holding you in my arms."

He glanced at her then, his eyes wide and artless. She had her head tilted to one side, grey eyes huge as she looked back. As soon as he met her eyes, Numair flushed and looked away. His words became harsh in their self-mockery.

"And still, I thought it would wear off. I watched you, hoping you would see someone else, and smile at them the way you always smile at me. I waited for someone who could give you a home and a...a family. The things they stole from you. You deserve to have them. I knew I could never give them to you, so I tried to make you believe that I liked someone else.

I wanted you to hate me, to look away from me and see another person to love. I let you think badly of me, because I wanted you to think well of someone else. When you spied on me I realised what I'd done. What damage I'd made. I'd been so wrapped up trying to push you away that I hadn't realised how much I was hurting you. And until you nearly lost yourself in your gift, I didn't realise how much losing you would hurt me, too."

He traced the carving around the edge of the fireplace with a long finger, his voice so quiet the hiss of the flames nearly drowned it out. "Slowly, too slowly, I realised that I was wishing away the first thing to make me smile every morning, and the only thing that chased your nightmares away each night. Why would I push that away? But by then it was too late. The... the damage has been done. I couldn't tell you, because... how could I tell you that I knew how much I was hurting you? That I was doing it on purpose?

We slept apart for eleven days, Daine, and every morning I woke up knowing that you were fighting your nightmares alone. I had to stop myself from running to your room. Once I caught myself standing with my hand reached out to the lock on my door, shaking with the effort of forcing my feet not to take another step forward.

I didn't want you to love me, sweetling. I can't offer you what you deserve. I have nothing. No home, no family, no trade. I'm a mage who can't use his magic, for the Hag's sake! I tried everything I could think of to make you stop, but I can't any more. I can't stand seeing you hurt. And I can't be silent. Not when you... you think... this... this lie that you've told yourself. How long have you thought that, Daine? What must you think of me?" He looked around then, not moving, almost afraid to make a single move towards or away from the girl who sat, frozen, a few feet away.

"Daine, I'm in love with you." He said simply. "I don't think you're spoiled. I never did. Not when you were a nameless, caring shadow who never said a word, and not when we were starving together in the mountains, and not when they turned you into Annette, and definitely not now when you're just Daine, and my friend, and... and yelling at me in front of a fire. You're the most beautiful person I've ever met, inside and out. Whatever you think they destroyed, it doesn't show. Maybe you think there are reasons why I shouldn't love you, but..." and he smiled, "I'm prepared to argue with you about them for the rest of our lives, if you'll let me."

"Yes," She whispered, and took hold of his hand when he raised it to her cheek. Her eyes shone with tears when she kissed his palm, and held it against her cheek. "Yes, yes, with all my heart."

He leaned forward and kissed her, a hesitant, almost shy kiss which was completely unlike the way they'd kissed before. Daine felt a strange lightness run through her body, warm where his hand held her cheek. She returned his kiss with the same gentleness, sharing the slow wonder of the fact that they really did love each other and finally, finally they could tell each other. She raised a hand and ran it through his hair, adoring the softness of it under her fingers and drawing him closer.

When they finally broke apart Daine giggled. "You have ash in your hair."

"Does it make me look sophisticated?" He drew her into his lap and kissed her forehead playfully. "You do know you're covered in ash, Magelet?"

"I think it suits me," She smiled. "Do you know, a handsome man told me how beautiful he thought I was two minutes ago? He might not have, if I didn't look so sophisticated."

"Oh, he would," Numair kissed her again, his arms tight around her waist.

The gesture started off playful, but Daine caught the edge of his face with her hand and pulled him closer, and he couldn't resist deepening their kiss, holding her so closely she could barely breathe, only feel the delicious heat that raced from her stomach and spread through her whole body. She moaned and moulded her body to his, feeling him catch his breath in response, and when he drew back she had to will her heart to stop racing.

"Daine," Numair said breathlessly, a hint of laughter in his eyes as he echoed the words she'd said the night before, "Will you stay with me tonight?"

"Of course," she breathed, and couldn't resist reaching up to kiss him again. "You never have to ask."


A Tamora Pierce Story
by Sivvus

Part 27 of 69

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